I know, I know, if I'd just upgrade to a Smartphone, these stats would all compile as I go. I think my savvy 23 year-old son and co-driver said it well, however, when he noted "I think my iPhone makes me stupid, because I don't have to do as much thinking".
Anyway, we completed the trip without incident, citation, scars, or getting on one another's nerves too badly. We probably terrorized only a few other travelers, and then only unintentionally. The Big Ford makes for a sizable item in one's mirrors.
On the trip out we were awakened by a clap of thunder only 5 hours after going to sleep. Since we'd noted a 33 degree temperature drop in the hour before stopping for the night, this caused me to awaken immediately as I was comfortable we'd pierced the weather front and would remain on the cold side. It was not to be, as we were in a narrow band where warm Gulf air had overrun the cold air on the surface, and the result was an instant ice storm in St Joseph, MO. A quick study of the current and forecast radar showed we'd have hours of the same if we stayed put, so we quickly showered, ate, and hit the road just before dawn. We had the pleasure of having I-29 all to ourselves, save for a few 18-wheelers traveling at a frightening speed for the conditions, and just 4 hours of 4-wheel drive 35-45mph travel later, we cleared Lincoln and got on I-80, west of the ice but head-on into heavy snow showers, high winds, and plunging temps.
The right lane was entirely clear but the left lane frequently sketchy, so we were left with the 55-65 mph traffic in the right lane was running. The temperature dropped steadily and by early afternoon we were in the single digits with a roaring N-NW wind blowing snow across the highway. By Sidney, NE, we started to encounter whiteout conditions from time to time, so we picked an 18-wheeler to follow and hung on to his ICC bar for about 40 miles until visibility improved. We'd earlier heard of I-80 being closed between Cheyenne and Laramie on the CB, so we'd phoned ahead for a motel reservation in Cheyenne. We made a whopping 577 miles in 12.50 hours that day in the poorest conditions I've had to endure for a full day, and we enjoyed a good Mexican dinner, coupla beers, said Happy New Year at 8:45pm, and went to sleep.
Rolled out of the rack at 00:dark:30 on New Year's Day to 2 degrees above zero and 25-35 mph winds in Cheyenne. By the time we reached The Summit around 30 miles west, some 2,700' higher then Cheyenne's 6,000', we'd had more whiteout and the temp at the top was minus 7. Descent to Laramie was uneventful, so I hoped we were home-free.
It was not to be, however, as once we picked up just a little elevation west of Laramie, it was whiteout city once again, the WY State Police had dropped the posted speed limit to 35, and even then it was difficult to keep track of the 18-wheelers in front of us. The CB kept us informed as to stopped vehicles on the side of the highway from place to place, a comfort since otherwise coming upon them would be harrowing. We got out of the worst of it by Rawlins and celebrated with a cup of coffee at McDonalds, while a 40 mph W-SW wind blew the 3 degree air right through us between the truck and the building.
Very, very windy the rest of the way across WY and finally lightened up a bit at our final fuel stop in Evanston.
We drove just over 500 miles locally while staying in Park City, mostly to and from the ski mountains near Salt Lake City and Ogden.
In a successful attempt to get in front of oncoming weather, we departed Park City at 3:15am for the return trip, experienced dramatic temperature inversion phenomenon with temps in the single digits down low and in the 30s to low 40s within a few miles and a thousand feet up, and ran into snow showers in central Nebraska, but not enough to worry us or slow us down. Avoided an approaching ice storm in the Southern Appalachians and completed the drive.
On a "beginning to end of day basis" we averaged 56 mph on the way out as weather slowed us for half of the total distance. The return saw an improvement to 62 mph on the same basis.
We burned 325 gallons of diesel and averaged 15.1 mpg, not what I was hoping for, but with extensive 4WD usage, much "up mountain" local travel while in UT, winterized fuels (poorer mpg common with winter blends), ridiculous headwinds, and literally hours of idling to warm up the truck or keep it warm, I can't really complain. For a vehicle which turned 200,000 miles on the return trip, she's doing fine and I think I'll keep her.
We figured we saved just over $900 in airfare, baggage, and rental car fees by driving, dead on my calculations after adjusting the the airfare not saved since our older son had to cancel at the last moment (we'd have saved his $500 of airfare and baggage fees had he joined us).
We learned a lot about the tough section of I-80 across western Nebraska and Wyoming--learned it can be mighty tough sledding and adding a few miles to avoid it can be wise. Still, the worst of it was limited to around an 18 hour period, so just waiting these things out can work out very well.
Looks like the local weather will allow me to spend an hour under the truck with the power washer by Saturday. She needs it badly, and an oil change. Gotta baby her--she's my ride to Montana and Idaho come July.